Rondine Cittadella della Pace, a small nonprofit association in Tuscany, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the vice president of the Italian chamber of deputies, Marina Sereni. The nomination has been accepted by the Swedish Committee, and Rondine is now one of 273 candidates in the running for the Prize. Rondine (www.rondine.org), headquartered 10 minutes from the center of Arezzo, is not well known in Italy, but with the Nobel nomination, that could change in a big way.
Founded in 1997 by psychologist Franco Vaccari, Rondine teaches young people from war-ravaged areas the tools for peaceful conflict resolution. Each summer, 15 students between the ages of 19 and 26 come to this small cluster of medieval buildings in the Tuscan countryside, the start of a two-year program.
Israelis and Palestinians, Chechen and Russian; different ethnicities, different traditions: together they learn in the classroom, over meals and from life in a residence hall. They identify conflicts, debate issues and explore solutions. They learn about themselves—and each other. At the end of their time at Rondine, they return to their home countries to put to use the peace-building strategies they have acquired.
The following are excerpts from my recent conversation with students and administrators about the Nobel nomination.
Patimat Murtazalieva, student from Dagestan
Oonagh Stransky: Do you ever argue with your fellow Rondine students?
PM: We have discussions that sometimes get very heated, but we use careful methods for communicating our thoughts so that we can arrive at a consensus.
OS: Are there ever any love stories?
PM: Oh yes! Just this past summer two Rondini d’Oro got married in Lebanon. He is Russian and she is Lebanese; they live in Abu Dhabi now.
Elena Girolimoni, press officer
OS: What’s one of the main criticisms you receive?
EG: We are often criticized because we don’t offer immediate help to people who need it, such as the refugees. But the way I see it, that’s like criticizing cancer research and saying we should devote our time to helping the terminally ill. We decided at the outset to focus on education and training, to invest in the future of these young people. I have seen how they learn and change. It’s a trajectory no school teaches.
Davide Berruti, business manager
OS: What does the Nobel represent to you?
DB: The budget! It could bring in new funds and people, so that we can develop some of our dreams. We have so many expenses: some of the buildings are protected by the Belli Arti; we need to travel to interview students and promote the program; and we provide scholarships to our students so that they have no expenses while they are here.
Giorgio Righetti, CEO, Associazione di Fondazioni e di Casse di Risparmio Spa, board of directors
OS: How might winning the Nobel change Rondine?
GR: The nomination itself won’t change anything in the association. It’s an honor and a chance to communicate our vision to ‘the world’. If we do receive the prize (and I hope we do), many things could change. And this scares me, because too much visibility might stimulate the less rational thought—we’re humans, after all. But I believe in the sang-froid and wisdom of Rondine’s administrators.
Franco Vaccari, founder
OS: You had a dream and you have made it reality. Tell me about it.
FV: Rondine functions on the same dynamic as the famous saying of ‘If you dream something alone, it stays a dream; if you dream something together, it becomes a reality’. It’s a lay project. It’s not a confessional project. Even nonbelievers comprehend the spirituality of this place. In conflict lies the seed of growth. In this community we learn how to live with conflict. Community generates growth, not destruction. This is the engine that drives Rondine forward.